Majestic Erg Chebbi & Erg Chagaga desert, High Atlas (8 days)

 

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Overview:

Book this 8-day Marrakesh tour to the south of Morocco combining both the sand dunes of Erg Chebbi in Merzouga and the wild and remote dunes of Erg Chagaga with the majestic Atlas Mountains.

Kick-off your desert trip with a wonderful drive over the High Atlas Mountains, across the famous pass of Tizi-n-Tichka and along small villages perched on the sites of the mountains. Visit Kasbah Telouet and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou and the vibrant main square of Ouarzazate.

Drive along the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs, stroll through the green palm groves of Skoura Oasis and tour the beautifully restored Kasbah Amredhil. Stop by Kela’a M’gouna to visit the local cosmetic co-operatives and take a stroll around the Valley of the Roses. Explore the garden fields and take a walk by the river of Dades Valley or go for a hike around the Toudgha Gorges with a local guide.

Travel along Berber villages, learn about life in the south of Morocco, and visit the fossil artefacts exhibition in Erfoud. Experience sunset camel rides around the big dunes, take photos wearing blue turbans, walk barefoot and climb to the top of the dunes to witness the spectacle of the sunset, and practice sandboarding. Enjoy dinner in a magical atmosphere, share evenings of musical plays with the nomads, and sleep in nomad tents in a camp at the foot of the dunes.

Go off-track through the Dra’a Valley’s palm fields and lively oases.  Learn about the green pottery co-operatives and visit the Qoranic library in Tamgroute Village. Experience off-road 4×4 driving through different features of the Sahara Desert. Search for fossils in Iriqui Lake and discover the Berber carpet-making in Taznakht.

Visit Taroudant’s old medina, the vibrant local market, and fascinating ramparts and stop by the small saffron museum and saffron gardens in Taliouine. Take a walk around Toubkal Mountain, the highest peak in North Africa, explore the Toubkal National Park, drive through Asni village, visit Moulay Brahim’s Mausoleum and stop by the Lalla Takerkoust reservoir before arriving in Marrakesh at the end of the tour.

 

Main Highlights:

  • Enjoy panoramic views driving over the Atlas Mountains, across the famous pass of Tizi-n-Tichka and along Berber villages
  • Visit the famous Kasbahs Telouet and the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou
  • Wander Skoura Oasis palm groves and the discover the small museum of Kasbah Amredhil
  • Visit the cosmetic co-operatives in Kelaa M’gouna and the Valley of the Roses
  • Go off-track through the Dra’a Valley’s palm groves, past ancient Kasbahs, and by green oases
  • Visit the pottery for the famous, local green ceramics and the Qoranic library in Tamgroute village
  • Spend the night in nomad tents in Erg Chebbi, Merzouga and the Erg Chagaga desert
  • Ride camels to the tops of the dunes, take selfies wearing turbans the nomad way
  • Witness spectacular sunsets and sunrises from the top of the highest dunes
  • Taste dinners of nomad cuisine under the starlit sky followed by evenings of music
  • Search for fossils in Iriqui Lake, discover Berber rug-making in Taznakht and explore Fint Oasis
  • Visit Taroudant’s old medina, vibrant local market, and fascinating ramparts
  • Stop by the small saffron museum and the saffron gardens in Taliouine
  • Take a walk around Toubkal Mountain, explore the Toubkal National Park and discover the Lalla Takerkoust reservoir
  • Spend nights in beautiful riads and traditional guest-houses

 

What is included:

  • Transport in a private air-conditioned 4×4; Toyota Prado Tx or deluxe van and fuel
  • Pick-up from and drop-off at your riad or hotel in Marrakesh
  • Experienced local English/French/Spanish/Italian-speaking Berber and nomad driver/guide
  • Accommodation in air-conditioned rooms/suites with private bathroom
  • Overnight in an authentic camp in Merzouga desert in private & comfortable nomadic tents equipped with beds, mattresses, sheets, pillows, blankets, carpets with shared toilet and shower facilities
  • The possibility of a luxury camp in Erg Chebbi, Merzouga with private toilet and shower, lamps, more space and pleasanter furnishings at 45 euro more each
  • Overnight in an authentic camp in an Erg Chagaga desert camp in private & comfortable nomadic tents equipped with beds, mattresses, sheets, pillows, blankets, carpets with shared toilet and shower facilities
  • The possibility of a luxury camp in Erg Chagaga with private toilet and shower, lamps, more space and pleasanter furnishings at 90 euro more each
  • All meals; breakfast, lunch, dinner – with vegetarian and vegan options available
  • A camel ride of about an hour – an hour & a half with a guide, and free sandboarding, if desired – just ask the camp staff
  • The option to go to and return from the camp by 4×4
  • Luggage service to the camp and all accommodation
  • Berber drumming and music
  • Free time to explore the sites such as Ait Ben Haddou, the Ounila Valley, for walks, photos, and tea/coffee breaks
  • The opportunity to ask the driver to stop when and where you wish
  • Entrance fees and local guide
  • Tea, coffee and mineral water in the desert

 

What is not included:

  • Drinks
  • Tips
  • Extras

 

Know before you go:

  • This Marrakesh desert tour can be customised to be more personal and special
  • Additional activities, such as quad-biking or full day trekking in the Erg Chebbi or Erg Chagaga dunes can be added to this tour
  • You can choose to go to the camp either on camelback or by the 4×4 (from where you go for your camel ride)
  • You can always consult your driver about skipping some spots to spend more time elsewhere
  • You can ask us if others are interested in sharing the car
  • We require a 30% deposit of the total price to book the car, while the balance is payable to us in the office in Ouarzazate
  • There is a 25% reduction for children under 12 years old, whilst we do not charge children under 5
  • These prices are liable to fluctuation according to the current exchange rate

 

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Itinerary:

1st day: Marrakesh – Ouarzazate
Morning departure from your hotel/riad in Marrakesh at 8.30 to drive across the High Atlas Mountains. At panoramic viewpoints, there will be opportunities to stop and take photos. The first scheduled stop is at the Kasbah of Telouet, which served as a palatial residence and the headquarters of the powerful Glaoui tribe, whose wealth came in part from the salt mines just outside the village. Each addition to the building now stands in ruins exposed to the wind and the rain, having been abandoned and plundered after the last Pasha fled the country following the departure of the French in 1956. Wait to be pleasantly surprised by the traditional interior decoration as you reach the farthest end of the Kasbah.

Then the route leads south and if the mine is open, you can enter and see how the pink salt rock is cut out from the walls. We continue down the Ounila Valley with the green fields and gardens running parallel down below full of bends in the roads, surprises at the hues of the rock and soil, Berber villages and gardens, as well as smaller Kasbahs. Here olives, almonds, and fruit trees are the main crops and the mainstay for many families.

This stunning road leads to the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, the oldest and most famous Kasbah in Morocco and one of Morocco’s seven UNESCO World Heritage sites. The architectural style is well preserved and the earthen constructions are perfectly adapted to the climatic conditions and in harmony with the natural and social environment. Probably originating in the 17th century, it is also famous as the backdrop to many Hollywood blockbuster films.

2nd day: Ouarzazate – Dades Gorges
After breakfast, you set out towards the Dades Gorge, passing the Skoura Oasis, where numerous ancient kasbahs, some sadly in ruins, stand amongst the palm trees. Kasbah Amredhil waits for a very worth-while visit; it has been beautifully restored and gives a clear idea of life within such housing.  It is made entirely of adobe, an excellent building material; warm in winter and cool in summer, due to the thickness of the walls.

From here, our route takes us through Kela’a M’gouna, the Valley of Roses, famous for its Rose Festival in May. Here we stop to see the cosmetic articles which are made locally from the valley’s abundant flowers. These products are well-known throughout Morocco and are highly valued.

Later, you take an off-road route to have a better impression of the landscape. Along the way, you will stop at caves, used by whichever Berber nomads happen to pass and claim residence there. This visit makes it clear to the visitor just how hard the existence is for these nomads in this very dry landscape, trying to feed their goats and bring up their children.  We will have a glass of tea with them before continuing to the Dades Gorge for lunch. This leaves you half a day to walk in the valley or to spend it relaxing or simply strolling by the fields and gardens, or having tea with a Berber family you stop in the Dades gorge in a guest house for the night.

3rd day: Dades – Merzouga
After breakfast, the trip continues a short distance to Tinghir and the very different Toudgha gorges where you can take a short walk to appreciate the steep sides to the gorge and the narrow expanse of the sky above.

From there, you continue to the Chebbi dunes via Tinjdad, and the Oasis of Tafilalet near Erfoud, famous for its Date Festival, and Rissani, which is the seat of the Alaouite family of the present king of Morocco. Erfoud and Rissani. Between Tinjdad and Erfoud, you can stop to go down into the fascinating underground water channels deep below the earth, always cool and preventing the evaporation of this source of irrigation. In Erfoud itself, you can stop to see the workings of thousands of fossils made into all sorts of artifacts. Lunch will be in a Berber village along the way.

At the bivouac, you are welcomed with a glass of tea before taking a camel ride to watch the sunset from the top of the dunes.

You have dinner and spend the night at an authentic nomad camp with shared bathroom facilities and a private tent for each couple or family.

Alternatively, you can choose a luxury camp with private bathroom, king-sized beds, beautiful Moroccan furnishings and lamps tastefully arranged to enhance your enjoyment of the silence and beauty of the dunes.

4th day: Merzouga – Agdez
If you wake up early enough, you can watch the spectacle of the sunrise, when the colour of the dunes and the play of shadows are an awesome sight. The drive back west to the Dra’a Valley takes us via the villages of Tazzarine (featured in the film ‘Babel’) and N’Qob, where we have lunch.

In the afternoon, we continue to Tansikht, crossing the Dra’a River. Here in the Dra’a valley, full of palm trees of some 44 date varieties, we turn north to Agdez, the head of the valley where we spend the night.

5th day: Agdez – Chagaga
After breakfast, there is an opportunity to visit the Tamnougalte Kasbah, the oldest in the Dra’a Valley and which some consider being the most interesting. Some of it is still inhabited and other parts crumbling away. For a short while, we go off-road along some of the ancient caravan routes between the mountains and the river, passing many villages and gardens so that you can gain a better idea of the way of life along the oases.

Soon after the police checkpoint in Tansikht, we come to the village of Tinsouline, from where you can drive just a kilometre or so off road to the fascinating rock carvings of animals long extinct in Morocco at Foum Chenna, some 4000 years old.  Having passed Zagora, the largest town in the whole area, we stop in Tamgroute, to visit the potteries famous for the green glaze, which you may have already seen in Marrakesh. There is also an ancient Quranic library with exquisite hand-written Arabic texts.

In the afternoon we drive further south still, to M’hamid, the very gate to the desert and the end of the paved road. This is where the Sahara starts. The final part of today’s itinerary is 60 km across the desert to the Erg Chagaga dunes (300m). This passes different features of the desert; ‘erg’ (dunes) and ‘hammada’ (stony desert) and oases. These dunes are far away from civilization, in the desert proper …… and the silence and the expanse of the sand are overwhelming.

You have dinner and spend the night at an authentic nomad camp with shared bathroom facilities and a private tent for each couple or family.

Alternatively, you can choose a luxury camp with private bathroom, king-sized beds, beautiful Moroccan furnishings and lamps tastefully arranged to enhance your enjoyment of the silence and beauty of the dunes.

6th day: Chagaga – Taroudant
After breakfast we drive another 90 km across the Sahara over the stony desert, “reg” and “hammada” and across the now dried-up Lake Iriqui. In the middle of this lake, you are likely to experience a mirage and unless it has been raining hard, which is rare, and in which case we cannot cross due to the mud, we can assure you, that “water” really is not real. Here you can search for fossils; some lying loosely around but most fixed firmly into the rock.

At the edge of the desert at Foum Zguid, we drive north to Taznakht, famous for its Berber gelims and carpets, where we stop for lunch. After crossing the Tizi-n-Ikhsane and Tizi-n-Tighatine passes, we reach Taliouine, the heart of the saffron growing region. The little government-run museum is interesting about saffron agriculture and as you enter the scent of saffron is delicious. The road takes us onto to Taroudant, where we stop for the night in a riad.

7th day: Taroudant – Imlil
In the morning there is a visit to the town known as “the little Marrakesh”, so-called due to its massive, intact ramparts and beautiful medina. Retracing our steps a little, we turn left and north back up over the High Atlas Mountains across the famous Tizi-n-Test pass, stopping at the beautiful, elegant, brick Tinmal mosque, which may be visited by non-Moslems.

Lunch will be in a mountain restaurant with superb views. From here we continue through the mountains to the village of Imlil, where we stay the night. Here the quiet and beauty of the views are overwhelming.

8th day: Imlil – Marrakesh
After breakfast, we have time to walk and look up at Toubkal Mountain, the highest peak in North Africa. Passing the Toubkal National Park we reach Asni, a small Berber village, which is famous for its permanent as well as for its weekly souks.

We then pass the mausoleum of Moulay Brahim, a well-known Moroccan Sufi saint who died in 1661. Here you can have tea with a local Berber family, who will show you the traditional hammam and bread ovens.

The last valley of the trip is that of the Lalla Takerkoust reservoir, which supplies Marrakesh and the surrounding area with water from the snowmelt of the High Atlas. Here there are stops to take photos of the wonderful scenery over the lake. And then back to Marrakesh.

Prices per person

No Days Meals
8 All-inclusive
Total price
2 persons
795 € *
1590 € *
3 persons
745 € *
2235 € *
4 persons
645 € *
2580 € *
5 persons
595 € *
2975 € *
6 persons
595 € *
3570 € *
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